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Week two of Sandy aftermath shows signs of normalcy returning

Bronx Times

Daniella Velez’s heat is finally back on in her Harding Park home, almost two weeks after Superstorm Sandy barreled through, flooding her basement and knocking out her boiler.

It left Velez, her 90-year-old mother and pet dog without heat for several days.

“There were a lot of things I had to throw out,” said the longtime resident.

Her story is the same all along the hard-hit low-lying community overlooking Long Island Sound.

Power outages, destroyed homes and a mountain of worry now canvass the tight-knit neighborhood with some waiting from the federal government for assistance.

Officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency went door-to-door to assess the damage two weeks ago.

The federal agency has set up a temporary Disaster Recovery Center in Edgewater Park, where victims can speak directly with FEMA staff to apply for assistance.

“It’s a one-stop shop for victims,” said Lepore, noting the Small Business Administration is on hand to help victims apply for low-interest loans.

The center’s main priority is really to get victims into the system, said Lepore. “We got to them into the process.”

Getting FEMA help

FEMA officials have opened another center in the Rotunda at the Bronx County Building on the Grand Concourse and 161st Street.

The public can also call 1-800-621-6632 or disasterassistance.gov to apply for FEMA assistance.

Homeowners have been asked to list all of their damaged items, though the challenge has been overwhelming for John Pache in Harding Park.

“They don’t want you to throw anything away until they see it,” he said.

Books and dolls now considered debris has been piled up in front of his home at Underhill Ave. and Q Street. The home belongs to his mother Joanne, now temporarily staying with her daughter.

“I have to stay with my daughter,” she said. “Otherwise I’m homeless.”

Sandy completely tore into Joanne’s one-story home, seeping into every nook and producing a rancid odor.

Down the street, homeowner Monique Augusto has seen small traces of everyday life come back to Harding Park.

But even with a list of damaged property, Augusto was still waiting on FEMA as of press time.

“I haven’t gotten any feedback yet,” said Augusto, who remembered seeing her basement and SUV completely soaked by Sandy’s surge.

FEMA officials did stop by the Harding Park Homeowner’s Association on Friday, Nov. 9, double-checking with homeowner’s to see if they needed assistance, according to neighbors. Some came. Some didn’t.

Locust Point cleanup

Over in Locust Point, volunteers and elected officials showed up in t-shirts, jeans and work gloves on Saturday, Nov. 10 to clear an entire perimeter of the Locust Point Civic Association damaged by Sandy.

“This was an unbelievable show of community effort,” said LPCA board member Chrys Napolitano, who led the massive cleanup effort with help from John Marano, chair of Community Board 10.

It was Marano who had got a call from Felicia Desanto of Diamond Dolls Girls Softball Team, whose players begged to do something for the community.

Seeing LPCA as a much-needed spot for cleaning up, Marano worked the phones, calling Ben Randazzo, chief of staff for Assemblyman Mike Benedetto, with both stopping by to lend a hand.

Councilman Jimmy Vacca did his part, coordinating a pair of private garbage trucks to the site, where they cleared pounds of debris. Vacca also got his hands dirty, with staffer Richie Torres pitching in.

Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio and his community affairs coordinator Paula Caquiaf helped serve breakfast. Community Board 10 district manager Ken Kearns and board member Pat Caruso doled out lunch. Firefighters from Ladder 50 were called in to saw a telephone pole that had drifted ashore.

Members of the Community Supported Agriculture group, including Mary Jane Musano, Mike and Patti Singer, and Chris Jardin, swept and shoveled debris. By early afternoon, all the debris in front of the LPCA was carted away, a huge sigh of relief for Napolitano.

“It’s one thing to donate clothes,” said Napolitano. “It’s another thing to see the effects of your help.”

The next phase of the cleanup project - the actual city-owned LPCA headquarters - is now on a holding pattern since officials have not yet determined what to do with the house, which badly damaged from the storm.

David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at DCruz@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3383

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